tips on mixing

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by maintiger, May 1, 2006.

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  1. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    I ran onto this article that I wrote a couple of years ago for a now defunct publication "The Whittier Songwriter." Well it actually was the monthly newsletter of my studio at the time, Lord Tiger... but that is another story for another time. I thought I just would share the article for some might find it useful.

    Tips on mixing

    With the proliferation of home and project studios songwriters now can do their own productions for much less than if they went to a professional recording facility. Some of the relatively inexpensive audio workstations on the market can, with a little care, turn out a product that can rival commercially recorded CDs.

    However, the budding songwriter-recording engineer often ends up with a production that is lackluster, uninteresting and "muddy." In this column we will approach ways to improve your productions so that they become an album, rather than a sonic calamity. A lot of the problems that songwriter-engineers encounter are found in the mixing stage.

    Mixing is multi dimensional activity. In a professional mix you will find the different instruments panned to different places in in the spectrum from left to right, as well as up and down. Main vocal, bass guitar and bass drum usually take up the middle in pop music. The reason we can place them together in the middle is that they take up different places up and down the spectrum. The voice takes up the top, (or "up") while the bass drum and bass guitar are the "down" in the mix. Guitars, pianos and other instruments are usually panned to the sides in varying degrees. However, keep in mind that there are no secret formulas or set of rules set in concrete: these are just rules of thumb or guidelines that can help you achieve a successful mix.

    Also there are degrees of loudness for the instruments, with the lead voice typically the loudest of them all in a pop mix. Other ingredients include the different effects used on the instruments (such as reverb and compression) and how they complement each other. Some instruments also are only felt, not heard. Oftentimes a string pad just fills the sonic space and is not really audible. Percussion and drums also fill up a lot of space, so you have to be careful you don't add a lot of other instruments in the same space. The trick for a full mix that is full yet has that desirable "airy" sound is to have all the ingredients placed so they complement each other, rather than compete for the same sonic space. When that happens, we have the sound that is called "muddy" in the mixing lexicon.

    Another rule of thumb for the beginning engineer is, "when in doubt, throw it out." If you are not sure if an instrument works in your mix, it probably doesn't. "Less is more" is a truism that certainly works for mixing. With that in mind we'll end this column on the spot. See you next month!

    Well folks, that's it- hope some of you find it useful- Please feel free to add more tips on the subject of mixing. If you do, we may end up wit h a very useful resource. :D

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